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Biological basis of aesthetics

Ashok Khosla ashok at claris.com
Wed Oct 2 12:24:03 EST 1991


The golden section is a common example of "scientific" aestheticism, perhaps 
because it occurs in nature so often (sunflowers, pine cones, etc..). 

To apply it to measures of anatomical construction (ie. what makes a beautiful
figure), is, I believe, inaccurate. Greek figures were 6 heads high. Post-
renaissance figures in western art are 8 heads high, although recently, 9 
seems to be emerging. Eastern art has its own measurement schemes, unrelated to
2-Dimensional planar space, and more related to time-foreground/background 
space. In any case,  dimensioning/and relationships of dimensions is 
inherently cultural, and  varies as the culture changes and evolves.

IMHO, any art (visual art) which communicates the essence of form more clearly
is bound to be perceived as more "pleasing". If you draw a cylinder, or 
sculpt a cylinder, and add visual clues which allow you to perceive the 
cylinder more clearly (ie. use contrast, horizontal circles around a vertical
cylinder, etc.) it will appear more visually interesting. Put another way, 
the simpler it is for a robot to understand, the more aesthetically pleasing
it will be.

Do you draw, or paint? If not, take a course, and learn how visual communication
occurs. I have been drawing for 20 years. I've learned a lot about why things
look ugly. But, try and draw something beautiful, and I find people telling
me "I don't know what art is, but I know what I like". Is that a result of 
innate biological aestheticism, or because I failed to communicate well?

To sum up, aesthetics, IMHO, seems more cultural than biological. 



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